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On the Water: Fishing is good as warm weather continues

October 23, 2019
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

It was another warm and beautiful week on the water around Southwest Florida, apart from Saturday, as we felt the affects of tropical storm Nestor. By Sunday our weather was back on track and anglers report catching fish inshore and offshore ahead of the storm.

The better bottom fishing offshore for grouper and snapper continues to come from depths beginning around 65-70 feet. Red grouper, a few gags, plus mangrove and lane snapper were caught over hard bottom and ledges. Best baits were sardines or squid fished on a knocker rig or heavy jig, and live pinfish for the larger grouper. Closer to shore in depths from 40-50 feet, mangrove snapper up to 15 inches were boxed and several boats caught and released good numbers of undersize mutton snapper. Bonito, Spanish mackerel, barracuda and big bull sharks were reported around artificial reefs. Offshore waters should settle back down this week from the recent storm passing.

Mangrove snapper up to 15 inches were caught in and around the Gulf passes, with live shrimp, pilchards and small pinfish the baits of choice. Several anglers also reported lucking across pompano schools just inside the passes, with small jigs and shrimp-tipped jigs getting their attention. A few large black drum were caught and released as well.

Article Photos

A mess of mangrove snapper

The Postma family, father and sons, visiting from Jacksonville, Florida, enjoyed a great day on the water and fresh mangrove snapper for dinner. They were fishing near Cayo Costa State Park with Capt. Bill Russell.


Grass flats over 3 to 6-foot depths in mid-Pine Island Sound and the south end of Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia yielded catch-and-release action with sea trout up to 20 inches, plus bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and sharks. The key was to fish areas with bird activity, or on calm days you could locate bait pods.

Large redfish, with most running 30 inches and above, were abundant near the Gulf passes ahead of Saturday's foul weather. Double and triple hook ups were common dropping live pinfish around structure from Redfish Pass north to Stump Pass over the falling tide. Reds running in size from 19-25 inches were hooked around oyster bars and shorelines near Fishermen's Key around the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, south Matlacha Pass, near Buck Key in Pine Island Sound and along Charlotte Harbor's eastern shore.

Snook ranging in size from 18 to well over 30 inches were hooked at first light on various top water lures in southern Pine Island Sound near Regla Island and Matlacha Pass east of McCardle Island. Live bait anglers targeted snook around Blind and Redfish passes and over the morning high water around islands on the eastern side of Pine Island Sound. Snook releases were also reported from the Bokeelia and Sanibel fishing piers.

With the complete closure on snook, sea trout and redfish, if you are going to target and catch them, it's imperative to do the right thing. Keep them in the water if possible -- if you must get a picture make it quick, remove the hook, handle them as little as possible and return them to water. If it's a lengthy battle, you may need to spend a little time reviving them to make sure they safely swim away. And probably the most important, please do not feed them to the dolphins. Bottle-nose dolphin are extremely intelligent, very adaptive and know how to associate anglers with an easy meal. It's no match for a tired released fish to have a chance if hungry dolphin are around. Too many times I have witnessed several boats working a school of large redfish, while every fish they release is being consumed by Flipper. Give the fish a fighting chance, either stop fishing for a few minutes and see if the dolphin moves on or just move on yourself.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, via the Website or email

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.



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